Italy Meets Greece

Three weeks into living in Italy, and surprisingly I’m not sick of eating pasta. Well, I’m sick of restaurant pasta because that equals me blowing $$$$. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I was when I read tonight’s menu and realized I’d be making an Italian pasta dish of my own. On tap for tonight is Sicilian Sausage and Fennel Pasta, and a Greek Diner Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I used to think that traveling to Trader Joe’s was a trip and a half, but nothing could prepare me for Italian grocery stores. Before I even left to go shopping I had to research translations of all the ingredients just in case I had to ask an employee where to find an item. Looks like my grocery trips are now going to be a part time language class for me too.

I started out at Conad at 10:30AM. I was able to find all of the produce…but that was about it. I wasn’t in the mood to ask any of the employees where things were, plus I was in a hurry to get to class.

After class, I decided to have another go at a different supermarket: Pam. Pam is more like an express super market, so I didn’t go in there with high expectations. I managed to find feta cheese, pepperoncini, and chicken broth, but I still needed to find sweet Italian sausage….I really thought that would be the easiest thing to find because, oh, I don’t know, I’m in freaking Italy??!! Mama mia!! I stumbled upon another random market across the street from me and decided to give it a go. I found sausage, but I couldn’t tell if it was sweet sausage (yes I get super anal about ingredients). I stared at the package for about 10 minutes before my eyes found “DOLCE” and I nearly yelped for joy. I still needed to find oregano, but I was so done with this scavenger hunt through Florence, so I just gave up on that one.

I had to run to class after the endless grocery trip, but after 2 and a half hours it was cooking time…almost. I come home to see my room mate Shannon at the door of our building saying she broke her foot, so I helped carry her to the hospital. Once she was checked in our other roommate Stef stayed with her & I hurried home because if I didn’t eat soon I was going to pass out.

Before I could even cook I had to stop back at the random market to buy a new pan because all of the pans provided by our apartment sucked.

Finally after hours it was time to cook! As the sausage browned I chopped up garlic, onions and fennel. Fun fact about fennel: it smells like licorice, which is interesting because once I threw the vegetables in the pan I smothered them with sambuca which is licorice flavored liqueur. The whole sauce was a random concoction of spices, veggies, and cream, and they all seemed odd to pair together, but Rachael Ray’s weirdest combinations tend to be the best.

 

As the sauce simmered and pasta boiled, Kait joined me to chop up the salad ingredients. Chopping is always quick and easy whenever you have a helping hand! Before I knew it, it was time to eat.

Kait got all cute and set the dining room up for a roomie dinner, then we all sat down (minus Shannon because she was still at the hospital) and had the moment of truth.

3…2…1…No exaggeration, this pasta was the best since I’ve been in Italy! At first I thought it tasted so good because I was beyond starved, but everyone had the same reaction. I’d say it was a success! The salad was just a salad, nothing extravagant about it. Just salad.

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Now time for the ratings. Sicilian Sausage and Fennel Pasta receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This pasta was so unique because it was sweet. Most people would be like “a sweet pasta? gross!” but hear me out, this was great. There was a slight licorice flavor to it from the fennel and sambuca, but not overwhelming. It was the perfect balance of salty and semi-sweet. Fabuloso! The Greek Diner Salad receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I realized after we cleaned up that I forgot to put the feta cheese in. -_- Cheese always makes everything better, so this was just a meh salad. There was literally nothing special about it, and anyone could’ve made it — simply unimpressive.

Rachael Ray has perfect timing: as soon as I move to Italy, all of the upcoming recipes just happen to be Italian! I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I think making Italian food in Italy makes it taste better…I’m definitely right. Pasta has always been the most difficult thing for me to make, but I’m gonna come back to the US a pasta master. Just you wait!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

PS Because of the ridiculous wifi here I couldn’t upload the pictures. I tried for 14 hours. So sorry about no pictures of this awesome meal. ):

Go Fish!

I have had summer on my mind for months — not just the weather, but summer food as well. I imagine having some freshly caught seafood on the shore accompanied by a nice refreshing salad… Okay the salad part was a lie, I rarely like salad… But, with summer right around the corner, tonight’s menu is giving us a little taste of summer nights to come. On tap for tonight is Swordfish Kebabs with Tomato, Onion, and Arugula Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I knew today (Monday) was going to be a very busy day. I somehow was able to squeeze in my grocery shopping after my classes were done at 2. I only needed to pick up a lemon, an onion, arugula, and swordfish — aka the smallest evoo shopping list in the history of this blog!! Since I was already at school I just walked 3 blocks down to Whole Foods where I was able to find Every. Single. Item.. Even swordfish! But I didn’t buy the swordfish there. Why didn’t I buy it? Because after Whole Foods I went down the the Lobster Place seafood market inside Chelsea Market. This is the only place I will buy seafood because I know it will be guaranteed fresh — they never disappoint!

After I picked up the fish I stopped by Bowery Kitchen Supply for metal skewers. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any, so I reluctantly settled for the wooden ones. The only reason I was reluctant about wooden skewers was because we are cooking the fish using the broiler, and I just imagined the skewers catching fire…well I guess we’ll just have to see tonight!

Fast forward to tonight. This is the first evoo EVER that is taking place in someone else’s apartment…and the second ever date night evoo. We all remember how the last date night evoo went: I never saw the guy again…maybe because I’m too demanding in the kitchen? Who knows, I just hope this adventure doesn’t end the same as the last one.

I arrived at Sergio’s place, and was greeted by Sneakers the pup. (Little backstory, I met Sergio through an app…but not a dating app. Oh no, we met through a dog walking app because I walk his dog walker. How’s that for a funny story?) Anyways once Sneakers got over the excitement of seeing me…and peeing everywhere…she went in her crate and we got to cooking.

The first step was to preheat the broiler. Now, Sergio had some sort of high tech oven that didn’t say “BROILER” like most ovens do. This one just had a bunch of weird symbols, and he didn’t know which one was for the broiler. Before we could even start he had to find the manual to figure out how to turn it on. Moral of the story: always learn your oven symbols before you have a cooking date.

Anyways, once that was taken care of, I skewered the fish, and made the rub from lemon zest, garlic, parsley and salt. I covered the fish and we plopped them in the oven.

I’m sure all of you know that when I cook with people, they are not just sitting on the sidelines. So, I gave Sergio the task of cutting the onion. I gave him the onion because I didn’t feel like crying tonight — I know I’m evil. Sneakers kept crying in the crate, so I let her out and she turned out to be our little sous-chef. It was the cutest thing ever!

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Sergio had to chop a 1/2 cup of onions, but he totally messed it up. He didn’t take the skin off the onion before cutting it. I thought it was basic knowledge to take the onion skin off before chopping but I guess not. I made him re-cut it, and he gave the skin covered onion to Sneakers. Needless to say, Sneaks was pretty excited that her dad’s mistake equaled food for her.

Now we came to another dilemma: the kebabs needed flipped, but Sergio didn’t have any oven mitts! I was flabbergasted! How does someone not own such a basic kitchen necessity?? He used dish towels to take the fish out and in, and I’m amazed he didn’t burn himself.

While the fish finished cooking we chopped the tomatoes the salad together. Before we knew it, it was time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1…WOW! This fish was absolutely amazing!! I haven’t had swordfish in ages (actually since the last time I made it through evoo, which was in the summer) and I forgot how much I loved it. The paste/seasoning I put on the fish was perfect and light — it reminded me so much of summer. The salad was a great compliment too, and so delicious! For such a simple salad it packed a big flavor punch. We were both so impressed with how it turned out.

Now time for the rating. The Swordfish Kebabs receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. There was nothing that could have made this any better. The fish was cooked to perfection, and the seasoning was simple but fabulous. I could eat this every day and I wish there would have been leftovers. The Tomato, Onion, and Arugula Salad receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts as well. You all know I’m not a big salad person, but this completely blew me away. I am now a believer in salad thanks to this.

I’d say this evoo date went 10x better than the last one, plus we had a cute little velcro dog to help out. Who says cooking with puppies is impossible? Tonight I just proved the whole world wrong and made a scrumptious date night feast. Talk about an all around win! Woohoo!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Turbo Classics Meal

Think about the most stereotypical meal you see mom’s making in TV shows and movies — really think about it. 90% of the time, these moms are making some sort of chicken, potatoes, and a salad…a well rounded meal; a classic meal. Tonight I’m playing that mom with this menu. On tap for tonight is Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon, Pesto-Smashed Potatoes, and Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing. Let’s get cooking!

Today was a beautiful Monday, and to celebrate this day, I decided to skip my 5pm class and go to Trader Joe’s instead. This week’s ingredients were pretty basic, so from the start I felt like it was going to be a one-stop trip. The first few minutes in Trader Joe’s were a bit disappointing. I was looking for pesto, but only found pesto-quinoa -_- This was super frustrating because I’m allergic to quinoa. Luckily, I was able to find normal pesto that wasn’t soiled by quinoa.

The only item that was completely sold out was rosemary. Trader Joe’s really played me this trip. I was so close..so, so close from not having to go to Fairway, and Trader Joe’s crushed my one-stop shop dream for the day. At least everything at Trader Joe’s totaled out to only $40!!

I stopped at Fairway for my rosemary and was out of there within 10 minutes, so altogether this shopping trip was one of the least stressful ones to date. Woo hoo!

I came home and once I cleaned some dishes I was ready to cook.

First I put the potatoes on to boil since I knew that would take a while. While the water was heating up I prepared the chicken. First I chopped the rosemary and sprinkled it all over. Next I was able to get rid of all my frustrations of the day by pounding the garlic with my mallet — that has to be my favorite cooking appliance. I then covered the chicken in olive oil, and grated some lemon zest over top before finishing it off with some grill seasoning. Finally, I tossed it all together and threw it in the oven.IMG_8264

Back to the potatoes. It was time for an arm workout! I added some chicken broth for the first round of mashing, then I added the game changing ingredient to make these potatoes unique: the pesto! I was able to smash these potatoes to the perfect consistency — not gonna lie, I was pretty proud of myself.

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Once the timer went off for the chicken, I had to add one more thing; the best ingredient known to mankind: wine…and lemon juice. I let the chicken marinate in the wine while I made the salad.

The salad was the easiest thing. It was only romaine, endives and walnuts. I topped the salad off with a nice Gorgonzola vinaigrette.

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This meal didn’t take as long as the last one. After one hour it was time for the moment of truth! 3…2…1… I was pleasantly surprised with the salad — the thought of Gorgonzola freaked me out, but it was a nice touch to a rather plain bowl of vegetables. The chicken was flavorful, cooked to perfection, and extra juicy. The potatoes…mmmmmh. Potatoes are just one of those things that you can never get wrong. All together this was a very good, well rounded meal!

Now time for the ratings. The Garlic Roast Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This was a tough thing to rate since for Easter dinner yesterday I had a roasted chicken as well. My mind was still clouded with the chicken from yesterday and how amazing it was. Also, even though I love wine, I really think this dish would have been better without it. This dish had the potential to be 5 stars, but it wasn’t up to that level. Next, the Pesto-Smashed Potatoes receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Rachel Ray has so many potato recipes —  it’s amazing how smashed potatoes can be so versatile. This one was quite tasty, but not as tasty as some previous taters. I made enough to feed a small army, but I will not be complaining about these leftovers whatsoever. Finally, the Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Dressing receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. It can be difficult for me to eat salads…they’re just too bland and healthy for me most of the time. This salad was pretty good, though. Even though the Gorgonzola dressing scared me at first, it was a nice compliment to a rather simple salad.

I think I made a pretty good classic TV mom dinner, although I would rather make new and exciting foods that typical moms wouldn’t make. In the future, my kids better not be as picky as I was when I was younger because they’re going to be the taste testers for my new and exciting creations…if I ever finish this 30 minute meals book… This book really is never ending but I wouldn’t want to cook from anyone other than Rachel Ray.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Your New Favorite Meal

You can never go wrong with one thing. That thing is pizza. Pizza is my ALL TIME favorite food…I could eat it all day every day (literally). It’s dangerous to live in the land of $1 pizza. $1 might not seem like a lot but I bet I’ve spent over $100 on dollar pizza this past year…yes, I eat that much pizza. I’ve been on a health kick lately, so I’ve been trying not to have as much, but as soon as I saw the recipe for tonight I knew this pizza would pass off as healthy…or at least semi-healthy. Tonight we are making a Pizza Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I started this adventure on Tuesday (yesterday). After my last trip to Trader Joe’s I vowed to never go back on a Sunday, and only do my shopping on the weekdays. What a better way to spend Valentine’s day than at the grocery store — am I right? Well, Trader Joe’s was like a loving boyfriend to me today. Not only did I find all but one ingredient (I knew I wouldn’t find prosciutto there), but there was also NO LINE!!! Having no line at Trader Joe’s is basically unheard of. I fell in love with Trader Joe’s a little bit more yesterday. Thanks for being my Valentine.

I ran to Fairway to pick up my prosciutto and headed home.

Fast forward to today (Wednesday). I had a very busy day full of dog walks and class, so I wasn’t able to come home and cook until 9pm. That may seem really late to cook and eat, but that’s usually around the time I eat every night…it’s the only time during the day I’m free!

I was all alone to cook tonight, which I was okay with because I was tired and ravenous so I quickly got started.

The only thing that needed chopped was two cloves of garlic which took 3 minutes, and then came the fun part: rolling out the dough.

Compared to my friends, I have a pretty extensive collection of cooking supplies. But I don’t own 2 of the most basic items – both of which I needed tonight – a rolling pin and a pizza cutter. I just had to make do with what was laying around my kitchen.

I spread out some flour on my counter and started to knead the dough. I tried to do that spinning trick that so many pizza chefs do…. but I just looked like a flubbering idiot. After I kneaded the dough for a while I grabbed a wine bottle (I know, classy) and used that as my rolling pin. I thought forming this dough into a pizza crust would be simple, but I was so wrong. It took me a good 20 minutes to finally roll it out to a good size. Every time I tried to expand it, it kept shrinking down to the original size. It was somewhat frustrating but I finally got it after switching wine bottles. I really need to invest in a rolling pin.

Once the dough was rolled, everything afterwards was easy peasy. I layered *fat free* pizza sauce, mozzarella, garlic & red pepper flakes onto the crust and popped it in the oven for 12 minutes. While the pizza cooked I just ate some mozzarella…that is the best cheese ever, I swear!

When the pizza was done I topped it with prosciutto and lemon arugula. It looked beautiful. I don’t think pizza could ever be ugly, but this was like the queen of pizza —  looks wise. I prayed that it would taste just as good.

I cut the pizza in quarters and then it was finally time for the moment of truth. 3…2…1… That’s it, that’s it. I’m dropping out to become a pizza chef. This was the mother of all pizzas..NO this was the GOD of all pizzas!! I couldn’t stop eating it. Everything about it was simply delicious. Wow is all I can say, WOW.

Now time for the rating. Pizza Salad receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts even though it easily broke my scale. I’m a plain Jane when it comes to pizza, but these toppings were spectacular and made me feel a bit healthy. The recipe said this pizza was only 2 servings, but I’m a firm believer that any pizza can be a personal pizza. All you have to do is believe in yourself.

Pizza is a wonderful beautiful thing, and I truly believe it was given to us from the heavens. How could something that amazing not come from heaven??? I will definitely  be making this again. Heck, I’m just convinced I’m a master pizza chef. I think I’ll open my own pizza place. Mama mia it’ll be Murr’s pizzeria!! Just kidding, my uncle has a pizza shop and South Carolina, so I’ll let him be the pizza man of the family. But be warned Uncle Dave…I bet I could beat you in a pizza making contest now.

PEACE, LOVE, PIZZA!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

Endless Summer

During the cold winter months, I miss one thing more than anything: SUMMER. I’m definitely more of a warm weather person and the blistering cold just drags me down most of the time. Not only do I miss the heat, but all of the amazing summer foods too. I’d do anything to be at a cookout with friends, soaking up the sun, and eating some good food. Luckily with tonight’s meal I’ll be transported to summertime (for at least a half hour). On tap for tonight is Oil-and-Vinegar Slaw, Devilish Chili-Cheese Dogs, and Summer-ish Succotash Salad. Let’s get cooking!

It’s the ultimate cheat-meal day of the year: Super Bowl Sunday. Ash and I decided to host all of our friends & have a watching party. In preparation for everyone to come over I headed to Trader Joe’s around 4pm.

I stepped out of the subway at 72nd street to my worst Trader Joe’s nightmare. the line to just get INTO the store was wrapped around the block. I debated dropping everything and going home, but I knew I had to stay. Thank Goodness the line moved quickly; I was inside within 12 minutes.

This Trader Joe’s trip was not the most pleasant to say the least. There were shopping cart traffic jams every step I took, and surprise surprise….I couldn’t find half of the ingredients I needed. I prayed Fairway wouldn’t be as crowded.

Fairway was crowded, but not as crowded as Trader Joe’s. I managed to find 99% of my ingredients there. What about the last 1%? Oh, don’t get me started. I needed hot dog buns, so I went over to the bread section. A lot of times I have issues finding things — even though they are right in front of my face. I asked an employee “hot dog buns…are they right in front of me?” as I said this, someone took the LAST bag of buns. I wanted to scream. The guy even laughed as he walked away. Talk about rude.

I left Fairway in a pretty bad mood because of the whole bun situation. Thankfully I have awesome friends that helped fix the situation. Ashley Gray stopped to get me my buns before she came over. She was my lifesaver!

I came home and slowly but surely, people started bailing. I feel like I should just expect to cook alone from now on, which sucks, but it’s life. At least cooking alone gives me time to think.

I immediately started chopping 2 onions, a red bell pepper, & garlic. Chopping and dicing everything is always the slow part of cooking, but once that was done it was time for the main attraction: cooking the meat.

I slapped down some ground beef into my pan & browned and crumbled it, then added some tasty extras: onion, garlic, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce. Lemme tell you, it smelled heavenly! I felt like I was at a good old barbecue.

I let the chili sit a bit & moved on to the dogs. Now, these dogs aren’t just regular chili cheese dogs — they’re devilish chili cheese dogs. To make them extra devilish, the dogs marinated in melted butter and hot sauce. It’s getting spicy in here!

Once the dogs were firey enough, they were assembled and put under the broiler to let the cheese melt. While the dogs were in the oven I quickly threw together the slaw and the salad.

Finally it was time for the moment of truth….I left the hot dogs in the oven a little too long so they were all burnt, but that didn’t stop me from digging in. 3..2..1…ahhhh sweet summer time….or sweet super bowl time? Whichever….either way this meal was delicious! This was the first time I had ever had chili cheese dogs….in fact it’s the first time I ever ate a hot dog with toppings! (I liked my food very plain growing up). They were not too spicy and I could’ve eaten 5 more of them at once — they were that good! The slaw was a nice refreshing side with a little hint of sweetness; quite the pleasant surprise. The salad was also good. I’m not a huge fan of random salads with beans but this was totally acceptable for me.

Now time for rating! The Oil-and-Vinegar slaw receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This was a good surprise to me. I had never eaten any kind of slaw before, and this was a perfect touch next to the dogs. Crunchy, salty & sweet all mixed into one! It was great. Next the Devilish Chili-Cheese Dogs receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This is what a hot dog should be like. The dogs had the right amount of spice, and when topped with the chili & melted cheese it became a beautifully crafted spicy & flavorful master piece. So delicious. Finally, the Summer-ish Succotash Salad receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This dish was acceptable to me, but it was nothing special. Like I said, I’m just not a huge fan of bean salads. Altogether this was a great meal and perfect for the Super Bowl.

Summer or winter, this meal will make you feel like you truly are in an Endless Summer. Now I can’t wait for summer and all of the picnics/barbecues that will entail! Only 4 more months until the time comes…the wait will be hard, but these hot dogs will keep me satisfied for the time being.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus